Banking on Mexico: Edouard Noetzlin and the Role of Financial Networks in Porfirian Mexico

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:50 AM
Chicago Ballroom E (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Thomas Passananti, SDSU
The paper explores the fascinating case of the most important foreign financier during the Porfiriato, Edouard Noetzlin.  Noetzlin helped found the Banco Nacional de Mexico in 1881 and over the next thirty years he was involved in virtually all the key financial events in Mexico.  The fact that Noetzlin was a foreign financier, involved in numerous “national” financial arrangements both helped him advance, and limited his successes as well.  Perhaps most illustrative of the weakness that his foreign status conveyed was the infamous 1884 foreign debt negotiations between Noetzlin (and his European banking syndicate) and the Mexican government.  While this debt arrangement was being scrutinized and debated in the Mexican Congress, street protests erupted in Mexico City denouncing the deal with shouts of “Muera a Noetzlin.” The arrangement was scuttled. Despite this and several other private incidents where Noetzlin’s status as a foreigner was used to discredit his role in Mexico’s national finances, Noetzlin traded gainfully in Mexico and in Europe on his social capital, on the value and worth of his social networks.   In Mexico Noetzlin represented himself and his bank as part of a broad European capital network, a network he argued was necessary for Mexican entrepreneurs to gain access to lucrative foreign credit markets.  Moreover he used similar arguments when he negotiated with a credit-strapped  Mexican government or  when it sought to diversify its financial exposure in Europe.  Similarly, in Europe, Noetzlin represented himself as the consummate Mexican insider with a wealth of experience, contacts and intimates, and thus he was the necessary linchpin between European capital and the expanding Mexican market.